While the Toronto Maple Leafs have plenty of work to do before they’re in the playoff picture, coach Ron Wilson’s club is heading in the right direction.
The Maple Leafs look to win five straight for the first time in nearly four years Thursday night when they try to close an undefeated road trip against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Eleven points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, Toronto (18-20-4) has a ways to go before it can start thinking about the franchise’s first postseason appearance since 2004. The Maple Leafs, though, are playing some of their best hockey of the season, outscoring opponents 21-12 while winning a season high-tying four straight.
Toronto last won five in a row from Jan. 27-Feb. 6, 2007.
Clarke MacArthur(notes) scored twice, Phil Kessel(notes) extended his goal-scoring streak to four and Carl Gunnarsson(notes) also found the back of the net as the Maple Leafs improved to 3-0-0 on their trip Tuesday with a 4-2 victory over San Jose. All of Toronto’s goals came in the third period.
“It’s a big win for our team,” said Kessel, who has scored five times during the winning streak. “We’ve been working hard and we’ve got to keep it going.”
It also was a significant victory for Wilson, who became the seventh coach in NHL history to reach 600.
“It’s pretty special,” said Wilson, a former Sharks coach who has 82 victories with Toronto. “Only six other guys have done it. You don’t see it very often. The best thing is that we managed to find a way to do it here.”
The Maple Leafs have received solid play in net from rookie James Reimer(notes) during their surge, and he’s likely to make a fourth straight start even with veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes) ready to return after being out since Dec. 16 with a groin strain.
“I think Giggy is close but I have no idea what the deal is,” said Reimer, who has a 2.34 goals-against average in three starts during the win streak.
If Reimer does start, he will try to help Toronto post its first six-game road winning streak since March 1-22, 2008.
The Maple Leafs have dropped four in a row to the Coyotes, falling 6-3 at home in the teams’ last meeting Dec. 16, 2009.
Phoenix (21-13-9) returns home for four straight following a 2-0 trip that ended with the team rallying from a two-goal deficit to beat Columbus 4-3 on Tuesday night.
“We’re getting some breaks, we’re doing some good things, we’re getting rewarded for some work,” said coach Dave Tippett, whose team has won four of five. “Our penalty-killers did an especially good job for us 5 on 3 a couple times there.”
The Coyotes, though, have received no production on the power play over the last seven games, going 0 for 20.
The Maple Leafs have killed all 12 penalties during their winning streak.
Coyotes center Martin Hanzal(notes), who assisted on third-period goals from Radim Vrbata(notes) and Derek Morris(notes) on Tuesday, had three assists in last season’s victory over Toronto. Hanzal recorded his only career hat trick in the Maple Leafs’ last visit to Phoenix, a 6-3 Coyotes win Dec. 4, 2008.